Spurs End Lakers’ Reign With Game 6 Rout

AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kobe Bryant left the court in tears as the three-year championship reign of the Los Angeles Lakers came to a decisive end.

“I hate this feeling, I don’t ever want to feel it again,” Bryant said Thursday night after a 110-82 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.

The Spurs, the last team other than Los Angeles to win an NBA title, had been ousted by the Lakers in each of the past two seasons.

“We’ve been put down by these guys the last couple of years,” Tim Duncan said after getting 37 points and 16 rebounds to lead the wipeout. “More than ending their reign, that felt a lot better — ending their season and going on.”

Tony Parker, who turns 21 Saturday, added 27 points for the Spurs, who scored 44 of the game’s final 62 points.

The Lakers were the league’s best in 2000, ’01 and ’02 — but they won’t join the Boston Celtics as the only NBA teams to win more than three straight championships. The Celtics won eight straight from 1959-66.

The Lakers had won 13 straight playoff series under coach Phil Jackson, and were 4-0 under Jackson when facing elimination.

In this one, though, they were tired and beat-up — and out of contention by midway through the fourth quarter.

The last team to eliminate the Lakers from the playoffs was San Antonio, which swept them in the 1999 conference semifinals en route to its only championship. The Lakers hired Jackson shortly thereafter.

The Lakers swept the Spurs in the 2001 conference finals, beating them by 39 and 29 points in the last two games. And the Lakers eliminated the Spurs in five games in the conference semifinals last year.

Jackson-coached teams had won a record 25 consecutive playoff series dating to 1996, and his nine titles are tied for the most in NBA history with former Boston coach Red Auerbach.

There won’t be a 10th — at least not until next year.

“They left no doubt about the fact that they were the better team in this series,” said Jackson, who underwent an angioplasty to unblock an artery last Saturday. “We’re severely disappointed we couldn’t make a run for the championship.

“We’ve had a great run, we’ve had great play. We’ve gotten a little bit older, we had some injuries, we had a tough year.”

The Lakers overcame an 11-19 start to finish 50-32 and were seeded fifth in the West. The Spurs (60-22) have homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.

“We finally played the defense in the second half that got us to this point,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Regarding the Lakers, Popovich said: “I’ve been amazed at what they’ve done. They’ve been great, they are great.”

Shaquille O’Neal led the Lakers with 31 points and 10 rebounds. He was removed with 4:34 remaining and the Spurs leading 98-76.

“It’s very, very disappointing,” O’Neal said. “We’ve been celebrating the last three years, and we would have liked to have gotten it this year. But it’s been an unusual year. It was kind of a different team and a different feel out there.

“We had an unbelievable run. Ever since Phil came, we’ve been enjoying nothing but success, and this is the first time we’re not feeling success.”

Bryant added 20 points and didn’t take the loss well. Derek Fisher also left the court in tears.

“It’s just tough to lose, man. We haven’t experienced this feeling in three years. They executed extremely well. That’s an excellent ballclub over there,” Bryant said.

During a timeout with 2:26 left, the Staples Center crowd stood and applauded the Lakers, who trailed by 25 points at that point.

Duncan, who finished 16-for-25 from the field, scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to give the Spurs an 82-69 lead. A basket by Manu Ginobili made it 84-70 with 10:07 remaining.

Ginobili’s 3-pointer with 8:09 remaining made it 91-74, and the Lakers were through.

“We didn’t want to take it to seven with these guys,” Duncan said. “We did not want to let up at all. We just wanted to play it all the way through to the end.”

Perhaps that’s because of what happened in Game 5, when the Spurs blew almost all of a 25-point lead before holding on for a 96-94 victory.

“This’ll really sound crazy; what happened was the best medicine yet,” Popovich said before the game. “We won by the skin of our teeth. I think our players are coming in here with some appropriate fear.”

The Spurs advanced to the Western Conference finals to face Dallas or Sacramento. The series begins Monday night.

“It matters not,” said David Robinson, playing his final season. “We’re just excited to be moving to that next level.”

San Antonio led by only two points after a basket by O’Neal with 4:43 left in the third quarter, but Duncan scored eight points in a 10-0 run that made it 76-64, and it was 78-69 entering the final period.

Duncan and Parker scored the last 20 points of the third period and the first four of the fourth.

O’Neal fouled Duncan twice in a span of 66 seconds, giving the Lakers’ big man four fouls and a seat on the bench with three minutes remaining in thethird period. That was the beginning of the end.